Eucharist Means Thanksgiving
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about one of St. Catherine of Siena’s favorite phrases: “the table of the Cross”. It’s a phrase that neatly combines the aspects of the Eucharist as sacrifice and as meal”. It is the Cross that is our altar and our table, and Jesus is the spotless lamb we offer to God and then eat.
Here’s a passage from St. Catherine’s letters:
“…reflect, dearest daughter, that this food is not taken upon earth, but on high, and therefore the Son of God chose to be lifted up upon the wood of the Most Holy Cross, in order that we might receive this food upon this table on high…This is a food which while we are pilgrims in this life, draws to itself the fragrance of true and sincere virtues, which are prepared by the fire of divine charity, and received upon the table of the cross…This is the food that makes the soul angelic, and therefore it is called the food of angels; and also because the soul, separated from the body, tastes God in His essential Being. He satisfies the soul in such wise that she longs for no other thing nor can desire aught but what may help her more perfectly to keep and increase this food, so that she holds in hate what is contrary to it.”
The interesting thing about Catherine’s table is that she keeps very strongly in mind that it does not have to be approached only in the Mass. She is a great one for spiritual communion, and likewise for offering up her own sufferings and frustrations. She is perpetually thankful for what Jesus suffered, and perpetually aware that she is a member, a body part, of the Body of Christ. But she always returns back again to the Eucharist of the Mass, and the table of the Cross where we eat the Body of Christ and drink His Precious Blood. That is where she believed a scholar got true knowledge — by “feeding on the food of souls at the table of the holy Cross.” And those who feed on Christ on the cross must suffer with Christ on the cross.
“…hungered for souls, on the table of the most holy Cross, in company with the humble and immaculate Lamb. I do not see, Father, that this sweet food can be eaten anywhere else. Why not? Because we cannot eat it truly without enduring much; it must be eaten with the teeth of true patience and the lips of holy desire, on the Cross of many tribulations, from whatsoever side they may come — complaints, or the scandals in the world; and we must endure all things till death. Now is the time, dearest father, to show whether we are lovers of Christ crucified and rejoice in this food or not… there do you eat this food, bathed in the Blood of Christ crucified.”
“Joy, joy in the Cross with me! So may the Cross be a bed where the soul may rest: a table where may be tasted heavenly food, the fruit of patience with quietness and assurance.”
“Your Father fed His sons at the table of the Cross.”
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!